Passion(ate?) discussion

by Eszter Hargittai on March 2, 2004

There will be a panel discussion this afternoon at Princeton (4:30pm EST) about the Passion movie (see live Webcast). My good friend, the very smart Steven Tepper will be on the panel as will some other interesting Princeton academics plus representatives of national Catholic and Jewish organizations. Steve studies controversies over art and culture so it should be interesting to hear his take on the reactions to this movie.



Jeremy Osner 03.03.04 at 3:14 am

Is there a transcript?


Gabriel Rossman 03.03.04 at 12:44 pm

I attended the panel (which filled the largest auditorium on campus and went into an overflow room). The main themes of Steven’s comments were that everybody’s ox gets gored sometimes and that it’s useful to study controversy at the local level. The rest of the panel was also quite good, except for this AJC rabbi who opposed the film not so much for anything antisemitic but because it rejects moral relativism, the absolute embrace of which he seems to see as the only thing which is not relative.


Rob 03.03.04 at 12:54 pm

I was there as well, though I personally thought William Donohue of the American Catholic League stole the show for biggest buffoon. Channeling Bill O’Reilly on an academic panel earned him lots of applause from some of the more conservative undergraduates, but in general his antics cheapened the event. The “AJC Rabbi”, however, was excellent. Overall, however, I was disappointed.


Ed Felten 03.03.04 at 3:09 pm

I couldn’t attend the panel. But the Daily Princetonian story implied that some of the panelists commented on the movie’s content without having seen it. Is that true? If so, did anybody remark on it?


eszter 03.03.04 at 3:42 pm

I think three or four of the seven panelists had not seen the movie. No one remarked on that. I didn’t think it was necessarily problematic as these people didn’t make comments about the movie per se. The first speaker gave a historical record and didn’t take on the film directly (if I recall correctly) and so it didn’t seem to be a problem. Steve happened to see the movie and made a personal comment about it although even for his comments I didn’t think it was necessary for him to have seen it (well, except for that personal comment). He noted that in his environment the movie didn’t make him feel like he had to go out and make a fuss about it publicly, but this may depend on where one lives. This all related to his more general point about how communities influence level of reaction in such situations.


eszter 03.03.04 at 3:44 pm

I’ve sent a note to Office of Information Technology at Princeton to inquire whether they would make archives available. (The video is not currently available on the site.)


Tom 03.03.04 at 6:25 pm

Is anyone going to suggest a double-billing with the only other movie filmed in Latin, Derek Jarman’s “Sebastiane”? After all, they both feature martyrdom.


Keith M Ellis 03.03.04 at 7:19 pm

A question for the authoritites (and informed) in the audience: is Aramaic and Latin historically correct? Aramaic obviously is, but I’m unsure about Latin and I’ve assumed it reflects Gibson’s pre-Vatican II bias.

I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I learned (“learnt” for you UKians out there) Homeric and Attic Greek in school, and that Koine Greek came along for the ride. And I translated a couple of the Gospels, since Koine is so easy. So: I’ve always told people that the Gospels were written in Koine Greek because is was the lingua franca of its time and place. Is this not correct for spoken language, when, for example, the Romans and the Jews interacted? Would they have spoken Latin? I’m skeptical, but I’d like an authoritative answer.


eszter 03.03.04 at 10:59 pm

I’m afraid I can’t help you with that one, Keith.

For those who missed the debate and are interested, it is now available here:


john c. halasz 03.03.04 at 11:14 pm

keith m. ellis:

I’m obviously no expert, but I think your surmise is correct and I have seen several grumblings about the matter of the “Romans” actually speaking Greek in print or on the internet.

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